Saturday, May 7, 2016

Abbott Index 2015-16

When the New Jersey Supreme Court's "Parity Plus Doctrine" for urban poor districts became "law" in 1990, one justification for giving massive aid to urban poor districts (later known as the "Abbotts") and not equally poor suburban and rural districts was that most of New Jersey's poor children lived in the Abbotts anyway and that a full quarter of New Jersey's students attended school in the Abbotts.

When Jon Corzine pushed the School Funding Reform Act through the legislature in 2007-2008, one justification was that by 2007 only 49% of New Jersey's poor children lived in the Abbotts and that state aid should be directed to wherever poor children happened to live and by 2007-2008, most poor New Jersey children did not live in the Abbotts.

So, a decade after SFRA became law and renamed the Abbott districts "SDA" districts, what percentage of New Jersey's students and poor children live in the Abbotts now?  

In light of the fact 56% of New Jersey's K-12 operating aid goes to the Abbotts and 92% of New Jersey's Pre-K aid goes to the Abbotts, this is a vital question that no one is addressing.

Finding the answer isn't as simple as it initially seemed to be.  This is because comparing the populations of Abbotts and non-Abbotts is not a perfect comparison due to the fact that the Abbotts are PreK-12 and non-Abbotts are usually start in Kindergarten.  So, the headline enrollment data from the Enrollment Files for the Abbott districts includes 3 and 4 year old children that non-Abbott districts usually do not educate.

Getting the K-12 enrollment of Abbotts took an extra step with subtracting out the Pre-K kids, which isn't complex mathematically, but because the DOE provides FRL and ESL enrollment figures for Pre-K to 12, there is no way to accurately get just the K-12 Free Lunch and Reduced lunch enrollment for the Abbotts.

Also, due to charter schools and Interdistrict Choice, it's possible for a child who lives in an Abbott to attend school outside of an Abbott and likewise for a non-Abbott child to attend school in an Abbott.

Finally, there are obvious data errors in the DOE's original data. Passaic's data says it is 99% Free lunch eligible. Bridgeton's data says it is only 8% Free lunch eligible. These are not correct. Lady Liberty Academy CS says it has 440 Migrant students whereas most charters and Abbotts claim to have 0-5.

Since these are obviously errors, I've substituted in old Education Law Center data on Passaic and Bridgeton's FRL-rate, which are 90% and 93% for the towns, respectively.  I've not attempted to tabulate anything regarding Migrant children.

The data is from the DOE's Enrollment Files. I've put it online here. The source for the tax base information is the Department of Education.

Here goes:

1. Percentage of Statewide Public+Charter School K-12 Children Attending School in the Abbotts:

21.7% (256,965+35,641)/(1,368,929.5-26674)

1.37 million is statewide enrollment, 26,674 is Abbott (charter and district) Pre-K enrollment.

2.  Percentage of Statewide (Pre-K - 12) Free Lunch Eligible Children Attending School in the Abbotts:

  • 47-48% (215,813.50/446,590.50)  (the Passaic & Bridgeton data errors make getting the exact percentage impossible)

Without the Pre-K students factored in, the percentage would probably be a point lower.

3.  Percentage of Statewide Reduced Lunch Eligible Children Attending School in the Abbotts:
  • 27% (17,780.00/67,474.50)

Again, without the Pre-K students factored in, the percentage would probably be a point lower.

4.  Percentage of Statewide Free & Reduced Lunch-eligible Children Attending School in the Abbotts:

  • 46% (238,858.45/514,065.00) 

Again, without the Pre-K students factored in, the percentage would probably be a point lower.

5.  Percentage of Statewide Limited English Proficiency Children Attending School in the Abbotts:
  • 57% (40,014.00/70,142.00)
Again, without the Pre-K students factored in, the percentage would probably be a point lower.

6.  Abbott District Traditional Public School Enrollment:
  • 263,042, counts Pre-K

7. Abbott Charter School Enrollment:
  • 35,955, counts Pre-K

8.  Weighted Percentage of Abbott Children who are Free or Reduced Lunch-eligible

  • 77%  (the weighted state average is 38%)

9.  Weighted Percentage of Abbott children who are classified as "Limited English."  

  • 13%  (the state average is 5%)

10.  Percentage of K-12 Operating Aid in 2015-16 Going to the Abbotts:

  • 56% ($4,456,252,640/$7,960,011,347)

11. Percentage of Pre-K Aid Going to the Abbotts:
  • 92% ($601,372,840 / $655,516,608)

12. Percentage of State's Total Equalized Valuation in the Abbotts:

  • 9.6% ($113,692,409,336/$1,184,270,167,198)
(31% of that is from Hoboken and Jersey City alone.)

13.  Percentage of State's Local Fair Share in the Abbotts:

  • 9.98% ($1,519,423,769/$15,230,332,281

  • 14. Percentage of State's Total Local Tax Levy raised by Abbott districts: 
    5.52% ($770,439,341/$13,957,747,870)

The Supreme Court's order that New Jersey pay for two years of "free" Pre-K in the Abbotts has constrained its ability to offer even a single day of Pre-K outside of the Abbotts or even help pay for full day kindergarten.

The fact that 92% of NJ's Pre-K aid goes to the Abbotts is wholly unjust since these districts have less than half of NJ's poor children. 

That the Abbotts receive 56% of New Jersey's state aid is also a problem, although a less glaring one since the Abbotts have almost half of New Jersey's poor children.  

Within these averages and percentages there is great variation.  It is unfair to generalize about the Abbotts from the desperation of Newark and Camden (as Chief Justice Robert Wilentz did in his Abbott II decision), but it is also unfair to generalize about the Abbotts because Hoboken and Jersey City remain Abbotts despite their increases in wealth.  (Hoboken and Jersey City are not the only Abbotts who shouldn't be on the Abbott list either.)

Criticisms of the Abbott regime should not be based on the fact that "5 percent of all New Jersey school districts consume 60 percent of the entire [state aid] subsidy." The Abbotts are large, poor districts that merit far more than 5% of state aid or even the 22% of state aid that would correspond to their share of the statewide student population. 

However, even if one believes that money produces academic results and the superior spending is necessary, the Abbotts themselves have the capacity to pay more for their local school systems than they assume.

Only two of the Abbotts (Burlington City and Salem City) pay their Local Fair Shares.  Only another two (Phillipsburg and Garfield) pay over 90%.  The Abbotts can and must do better.

No comments:

Post a Comment